Tyson Foods announced Tuesday that it will be conducting extensive testing of employees at its Sherman plant for COVID-19 this week.
The additional testing comes one week after the food manufacturer announced that several employees at the plant have tested positive for the viral infection in recent weeks.
"Our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, and we are working with local and state officials to manage the impact of this pandemic on our team members, their families and our communities," said Tom Brower, Senior Vice President of Health and Safety for Tyson Foods. "Testing provides information to our team members that they need for their care and offers an opportunity to educate them on staying safe at work and at home, as well as benefits available to them."
On May 6, the plant announced multiple cases of COVID-19 that had been reported in Tyson employees. At that time, Tyson declined to give specific numbers, but said the cases were confirmed between late April and as recently at May 6.
When asked if there were any additional cases since the initial reporting, Derek Burleson, external communications for Tyson, declined to answer, stating that Tyson is not giving specific numbers.
"We’re not providing specific numbers due to the evolving nature of the situation," he said.
The testing at Tyson will be conducted for all employees and contractors on May 13-14 at the Sherman facility. The testing was requested by Tyson, who will be working with local officials and state emergency management officials working with the Texas Mobile Test Collection Sites.
These testing sites work each day at more than 30 locations throughout the state and to date have tested more than 20,000 people in 200 counties, company officials said.
Tyson employees who test positive for the disease will receive paid leave and will be able to return once they meet recovery criteria established both by the CDC and Tyson.
As was reported last week, Tyson has taken steps to prevent further spread of the disease by adjusting procedures within the plant. These steps have included educational efforts, which are made in four languages based on the makeup of Tyson’s employees, wellness screenings of employees as they enter the Sherman facility, and the mandatory wearing of surgical masks while in the facility, among other efforts.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.